Top tips for perfect email etiquette

Email makes us more efficient right?

Not necessarily, according to research by productivity software provider Boomerang.

Woman working on a laptop in a sunny office

Its inventor, Ray Tomlinson, declared at the time that it was “a complete revolution, fundamentally changing the way people communicate.” He wasn’t wrong. Fifty-two years on the average worker sends and receives around one hundred emails a day but many of us consider them to be one of our biggest time wasters.

Let’s check out some email do’s and don’ts.

1. Use proper text in your subject line

Using all CAPS in your subject line is very nearly a capital offence. It is certainly offensive, as it suggests you are shouting at the recipient and no one wants to be shouted at, particularly not by someone who is offering you their services. This is a ‘technique’ used by scammers so if you don’t want to be categorised similarly then stick to proper text.

The Boomerang study found that people sending emails with an all-caps subject line were 30% less likely to receive a reply, while those sent with an all lower case subject line were likely to receive a response only 28.4% of the time.

The use of proper text sees the response rate rise to 32.6%.

2. Be clear in your subject lines

Avoid generic subject lines. If the subject line isn’t clear then the receiver might misunderstand it and perhaps not recognise its potential urgency. Also, don’t forget to change the subject line if the subject matter of the email switches to something else.

A miscellaneous question in an email thread can easily throw the intended email topic off course making it difficult to locate at a later date.

3. Use CC and BCC as they are meant to be used

Cc’ing or bcc’ing in recipients instantly informs them that the email is for their information only and doesn’t need to be acted upon. The correct use of this can save a whole load of time, not to mention confusion. Additionally, the use of bcc obviously indicates that discretion is required.

4. Strike a balance

Short emails are good so long as the subject matter lends itself to being brief. Similarly, if the topic of the email is a serious one then be sure that the length of the email corresponds to the gravity of the subject being discussed.

5. Be careful with the closure

Boomerang’s research noted a 36% increased response rate to emails which were closed with an expression of gratitude. A simple ‘thanks’, or better still, ‘thanks in advance’ lets the reader know that you appreciate the time they are taking to read your email. Thanking them in advance makes them much likely to assist with whatever you are thanking them in advance for.

6. Not on a Monday

Sending emails on a Monday is often necessary but apparently this is when we are most likely to make mistakes which can impact response rates, as well as reflect badly on the sender.

The Boomerang research found a tendency for more negative subject lines on a Monday and it naturally follows that negativity is not likely to be well-received or responded to.

We are not suggesting you don’t send emails on a Monday, just be wary of the tone and be sure to proof read before hitting send.

7. Don’t hold your breath

Your priorities are almost certainly not going to match the priorities of the person receiving your email, so you shouldn’t expect an immediate response. If an urgent response is required then its perhaps not the best idea to rely on email as your sole means of communication.

Bare in mind too that emails can very easily slip down an overloaded inbox. Even the most efficient people can fall victim to losing important emails amongst the myriad communications they receive on a daily or even hourly basis.

Following up in this fashion (an actual email I once received, committing various aforementioned sins), is not to be recommended:

Posted by Julie Tucker

Images courtesy of undrey via istock & fizkes via istock